Failed Paintings Happen. Here’s What To Do.


At the time of writing this article, I was extremely tired. I’d also tried to make an experimental painting, which was originally supposed to be a “traditional”-style painting (without any underlying ink drawing).

The original painting looked terrible and it was only after some extensive digital editing that I was able to make it look even vaguely ok. Here’s a reduced-size preview:

 The full-size painting will be posted here on the 12th October.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 12th October.

It was a failed painting. Failed paintings happen. Here’s what to do after you’ve made one:

1) Keep painting: If you stick to a regular practice schedule, then failed paintings will soon become less of an issue than you think. Yes, you’ll still make them every now and again but they won’t have the same emotional impact that they might have if you only make art occasionally.

Why? Because you’ll have a chance to make a better painting the next day (or three days, or week). Because, if you make art regularly, then your feelings of “failure” only last until you start the next painting. After all, you’ve probably learnt from your mistakes and will soon have a chance to make something better. At the very least, you can restore your confidence by painting something that you know you can paint well when you make your next painting.

If you practice regularly, then you’ll also get used to occasional failure relatively quickly. At the least, your regular practice will mean that you’ll have made a few good paintings in the past. Looking at these can reassure you that your failed painting was just an anomaly and that you shouldn’t judge yourself based on just one failed painting.

Likewise, sticking to a regular practice schedule means that you can’t be a perfectionist. It means that you’ll learn to leave your failed painting (after putting some effort into salvaging it) and move on to the next painting.

2) Remember, it happens to everyone: Even your favourite artists fail every now and then. Even the best artists on the planet make failed paintings every now and then.

However, the reason why you probably don’t think about the fact that your favourite artists also make failed paintings is because they rarely show them off. If an artist hides their failed paintings and only shows off the good ones, then they’ll be able to give the impression that they only make good art.

But, this doesn’t change the fact that every artist fails every now and then. Failure is an essential part of the learning process. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” artist who never produces a bad painting. There are just artists who show off their failures, and artists who don’t.

3) Salvage and post: The definition of “failure” is a very subjective thing. To use a musical metaphor, even a bad song by an accomplished band like Iron Maiden will still be miles better than a good song by a much more inexperienced band. Likewise, if you’ve been making art for a while, then your current “failed” paintings probably still look better than the “good” paintings you made a few years ago.

So, the best thing to do with failed paintings is often to try to salvage them as much as you can (either through traditional methods or through digital image editing) and then to post them online. This might sound counter-intuitive, but there’s a chance that your audience might have a different opinion about your painting. I’ll never forget the time in 2014 where I posted what I thought was a “failed” painting on here, only for it to receive more “likes” than many of my good paintings had.

Finally, if you’re worried about criticism, then don’t be. Generally, if someone is a fan of your work or another artist, then they’ll probably give you constructive criticism that can sometimes be useful. If someone doesn’t like your art, then they’ll probably just ignore it and look at something else instead. If someone leaves a non-constructive critical comment below your art, then just remember that it is one person’s opinion about that one piece of art (eg: such comments are best ignored or at least not taken personally).


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

2 comments on “Failed Paintings Happen. Here’s What To Do.

  1. I like the thoughts! Both success and failure are outcomes of trying…and trying is a positive thing.

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